Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mahmoud Ahmed Charmed the Crowds at the WOMAD Festival

Mahmoud Ahmed
BBC Radio 3 -- East African music has, at least in our safe European homes, been enormously overshadowed by the musical output of the continent's western half. And had Mahmoud Ahmed been born in Dakar or Bamako, he'd be cherished and celebrated with all the attention that the world music cognoscenti have bestowed on the musical heroes of Senegal and Mali.

But no matter. Back home in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, praise and adoration has rained down on Mahmoud for decade after decade, making him - whether us sensitive Europeans know it or not - a true icon of East African music. It's not been easy, though. During the austere years of military rule in Ethiopia between 1974-91, enforced curfews largely killed off Addis' swinging nightlife while the recording industry came into intimate contact with the government's censorship policies.

But Mahmoud, who's enjoyed favourable likenesses to James Brown and Otis Redding, emerged pretty much unscathed, that rich, majestic voice having lost none of its bewitching powers. Now in his early sixties, some of Mahmoud's mid-70s recordings have recently been collected on the 19th instalment of the excellent Ethiopiques series of compilations, showcasing a singer who, whether on an unhurried, brooding blues or a horn-heavy funk workout, reigns supreme as a sensual, intensely emotive performer.

LISTEN: BBC has the entire WOMAD concert, including Mahmoud Ahmed's performance as a Real Audio stream.

NEWS: Telegraph and BBC News on the WOMAD Festival.

Previous post: Teddy Afro's Music Banned from State Media in Ethiopia

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